The Vulpine Softshell jacket is made from the finest dual-layer fabric, say Vulpine, with an outer water-resistant, windproof layer bonded to a tightly fleeced inner layer.
The jacket has a level of design and detail liberally sprinkled about it that suggests the creator rides his bike a lot, or has OCD, or has had one too many rides ruined by a bit of kit with a particularly niggly annoying 'if only they'd just' feature. Actually, it's probably all of those.
Vulpine is a new clothing brand from that there London, launched in spring of 2012 with the aim of creating stylish technical cycling apparel that you can wear on and off the bike.
Vulpine main man Nick Hussey has been a cyclist for years so should know what cyclists need when it comes to garments that work well on the bike but don't make you look like a twonk in the pub.
The 'Cycling But Smart' market is a lucrative one that a lot of clothing manufacturers are jumping into at the moment. Is the Vulpine Softshell at the bar already or still taking its time locking the bike up outside?
The first thing you notice with the Vulpine jacket is the magnetic closures, because you play with them all the time. Especially the ones that hold the flaps covering the two front pockets, both sizeable enough for deep hand thrustage. The flaps are secured shut by tiny magnets instead of zips or poppers. You will walk along flipping the flaps repeatedly, listening to the magnets find each other with a little clip noise. You'll find yourself stopped at the traffic-lights absent-mindedly flipping the flaps with a pleasing clip, clip, clip, clip noise. Well, it's pleasing unless you're with anyone else who has to put up with it.
A magnetic flap is also found on one of the pair of pockets round the back of the jacket, protecting the left hand one, while the right hand pocket is open to the elements for quick stuffage of items like a small lock. There's another zipped external pocket on the outside outside for more valuable kit and caboodle.
The final little magnetic tab holds the Vulpine bum-flap in place, folded up inside the jacket. It's a noticeable bright baboon's-arse red with a large reflective circled 'V' printed on it. This splash-guard folds down to save your posterior from rainy tyre spray if you're too cool for mudguards.
As well as all the magnets, Vulpine have a big thing for green. All pocket flaps have their undersides in the Kermit-y colour, and the inner seams are all lined with finishing tape, and the elastic cinchers are in the verdant hue too.
There's also a lot going on in the arms; the right forearm has a small pocket on it, zipped and with a carabiner hidden inside, perfect for frequently needed cards, cash, mobiles and keys. They then get pretty funky at the ends where the cuffs fold back to reveal a reflective lining, handy for night-time visibility, especially when signaling, and there are internal fleece cuffs in there to halt the progress of a chill breeze up the arms. Up top under the armpits a mesh of tiny laser-cut ventilation holes help with ventilation.
Moving on to further reflective detailing, it's all very understated with reflective shoulder strips that sit out beyond any rucksack or courier-bag straps. A reflective light tab is placed out back above the pockets, and embroidered Vulpine logos are dotted here and there… reflective logos? Actually not, although Vulpine tried to make them so.
The high-cut collar can be cinched tight against unfriendly elements with an elastic drawstring and it's held shut by a pairing of magnets - ah, forgot about those two, sorry.
There's an adjustable elastic waistband and another one midway up the back to stop that billowing out should you be riding bag free. Finally, all zips are chunky quality YKK ones, with Vulpine logoed tabs on, so they're easy to use when wearing gloves, and the front zip has a wind-baffle behind it so the weather can't sneak between the teeth.
Blimey, that's enough of the fanatical detailing. What's the jacket like to actually wear? In a word, really nice. Two words.
As a midweight softshell its can be used pretty much all year round. Not too thick for late night runs back from evening socials in what used to be called summer, and thick enough to be augmented by layering underneath when it gets properly cold.
The body is cut for cycling, but subtly so, with a gently dropped rear for kidney coverage when you're in the high street headwind tuck, but not so dramatic that you look a bit silly when you're stood at the Tesco till.
On the bike it fits perfectly, with enough room to layer beneath if necessary but with no unnecessary bagginess or flappiness. Despite the cuffs being tailored so they extend down over the rear of the hand the arms could still be a little bit short when cycling for those with a more gibbony limb. Flipping the cuffs back to use that neat reflective feature made this worse.
The windproof aspect of the softshell material worked well, with the fleece wrist-baffles and high collar all helping to keep the breeze at bay and it did a fair job of shrugging off the odd shower too. Being merely water-resistant the jacket did become swamped under prolonged rain. But as a more casual about-town jacket you're probably not going to be undertaking 80 mile wintry training sessions in it are you. Are you?
There were a couple of niggles though; as mentioned, those arms are a little short if you're lanky-limbed, and sometimes wearing a lot of high-necked layers - or one thick one - the magnets holding the collar together struggled to find each other, and when they did couldn't cope and popped open under the strain.
The Vulpine was used as much for just walking down to the Post Office as it was worn on the bike, so if the price tag seems a little salty to you, then consider it as two jackets in one. The Vulpine Softshell turned out to be one of those garments, like your favourite pair of jeans, that gets worn so often that you have to remind yourself it could probably do with a wash at some point soon.
Nicely tailored for cycling with well thought-through features and attention to detail.
road.cc test report
Make and model: Vulpine Softshell jacket
Size tested: Medium, Charcoal
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
The Vulpine Softshell was created as the perfect mid-weight jacket for cycling, yet subtle and stylish off the bike. It has selectable reflective and visibility features so that you can ride safely, but flip back for your meeting/date/pint. The design of the Vulpine Softshell hints at British military tailoring, coloured for grown ups, with its lined pocket flaps, traffic-facing shoulder bars and crisp lines. It is made of the finest dual-layer fabric, with an outer water-resistant, windproof layer bonded to a tightly fleeced inner layer. Tiny ventilation holes are laser-cut under the arms, where it counts. The softshell is ideal in cool to mild conditions, but also makes an excellent outer shell in the cold. Hard-wearing, the jacket is designed to perform and look great under the rigours of an active cycling and social life.
I'd really have to agree with all of that.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Water-resistant outer, lightweight fleece inner, breathable, windproof, multiple pocket options, magnetic closures, laser-cut underarm ventilation, magnetic splash guard, fold-back reflective sleeves, reflective shoulder strips, reflective rear light loop, pull-cord high-cut collar, green tailored pocket flaps, zipped valuables rear pocket, lined inner seams, long cycling cut, inner waist adjustment.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Spot on, cycling smart yet street casual.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The style, the cut, the fact that it didn't shout 'CYCLE JACKET' when not near a bike.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Nothing, apart from the arms that were a bit short for me when cycling. Add an inch or two there and the jacket would be perfect.
Did you enjoy using the product? Very much so.
Would you consider buying the product? Yes.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes.
About the tester
I usually ride: It varies as to the season. My best bike is: The one I\'m on at the time
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, cyclo cross, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mtb, Fun